Archive for organized labor

"Labor Day: the red-headed stepchild of holidays... to honor not the dead, but the living. Our workforce."

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Today’s guest post by the one, the only, Will Durst:

THE LEAST LABORING OF DAYS

Hey, it’s Labor Day, everybody. Woo- hoo. Okay, we’re partying now. Throw your arms in the air and wave them like you just don’t care. Blow up some balloons. Tap a keg. Rip open a bag of chips. Because this isn’t a champagne and caviar kind of thing. This is the very definition of blue collar. If collars be worn at all.

It was 1894 when Labor Day first punched into work. Grover Cleveland signed it into law 6 days after the end of the Pullman Strike during which federal troops killed more than 30 strikers. Cynics saw it as a kind of make-up sex between the government and the American worker. Well, flowers and candy anyhow.

The first Monday of September was specifically picked to bridge the long holiday gap between 4th of July and Thanksgiving and to get as far away from May Day as possible. In the late 19th Century, labor unions were one thing, but Communists were a horse of a different color.

For 120 years, Labor Day has been the red-headed stepchild of holidays. As glamorous as the guy with a shovel following a mule in a parade. Something you roll out to get Child Protective Services off your butt. “Look, we gave you an entire day, now give it a rest, would you? What do you want, cake?”

Goldilocks would have loved Labor Day. Not too hot. Not too cold. Less incendiary than Easter and Christmas, but with a decidedly higher thermal print than the International Talk Like a Pirate Day; fast approaching on September 19. Hard to believe its time to dig out the eye patch, wooden leg and Jolly Roger. Again. Already.

Because of Labor Day’s peculiar calendar placement, it has morphed into not so much a celebration as a seasonal signal flag. Here lies the tired, dried- up body of summer. Time to roll up the garden hose and recharge the snow blower. Bury the swimsuits and exhume the parkas. Watermelon smoothies give way to pumpkin lattes. Weenie roasts on the back deck- no. Tailgating in a dirt parking lot- yes.

The lazy hazy days are over and school and football have kicked off. And this holiday Monday is but one final chance to party in the long light. Meanwhile, the significance of what we’re commemorating has gotten lost in a last gasp blast of beer, baseball and barbecue.

Labor Day is meant to be a day we set aside to honor not the dead, but the living. Our workforce. One single day off so the real nine to five heroes that keep this country humming can hang with their families and friends before squaring their shoulders and getting back to the job of earning a living and carving out the future. And maybe one day at a theme park on someone’s 10th birthday without having to take out a second mortgage.

It’s a day to catch our breath. To celebrate the contributions of all of America’s working folk. From the floor of the stock exchange to the stockroom of Amazon. To recognize the pistons that keep the engine of this country pumping along. And no need to bring gifts, although that whole flowers and candy thing is never a bad idea. And maybe some chips and beer and what the hell… cake. Who doesn’t like cake?

Catch 5 time Emmy nominee, Will Durst’s new one- man show “BoomeRaging: From LSD to OMG” every Tuesday until November, at the Marsh, San Francisco. Go to… themarsh.org for more info. Or willdurst.com.

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Banishing the Poor, Unemployed and Working Class from the Mainstream Media Implies That They are Worthless

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Your Daily Dose of BuzzFlash at Truthout, via my pal Mark Karlin;

How often do you come across an article or a television news story that presents a poor person in a positive light?  Or for that matter when do you read about or see a story on an unemployed individual or the challenges of a working class American whose salary is receding as the stock market soars? [...]

In short, if you are not a member of the economically made, political or corporate elite, you generally don't appear in the news. You are voiceless, faceless. The reality is that you are not news; your existence is hardly worthy of note, with the obligatory exception of an occasional "gee it's tough to live like this" profile of a "welfare mom" or person unemployed and looking for work for three or four years. [...]

Otherwise, in urban areas, the only regular stories you see about the poor is the knife and gun coverage of violence [...]

Some union members are well into the middle class, but even labor gets short shrift by the corporate mainstream media.  Why? Many reasons, but one of the big ones is that the owners of news "machines" in America are generally not keen on unions.  They cut into their media conglomerate profits.  So why promote the union viewpoint?

But there's another key point to remember.  News that relies on advertising for revenue and profit – which is almost all the news media ...– are shaped as conduits for advertisers to deliver to a defined market.  And guess what? Poor and low income people don't have the money to make them a desirable advertising audience (with some exceptions) for big media. So why write articles about them in the corporate media? [...]

To many in the society, their mere presence on earth blights the landscape of the prosperous.

Please read the entire post here.

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House GOP leadership rammed through bill that would have effectively put National Labor Relations Board out of business

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Yesterday I posted this: "Reince Priebus confirms GOP’s not really serious about reinventing itself; Paul Ryan aids and abets."

One of our astute readers brought one more thing to my attention, something I missed, one more thing that proves that Republicans are all show and no go. While they're busy screaming about freedom and democracy, House Republicans made it clear that they don't want working Americans to have a voice.

 

Via the AFL-CIO:

House Republican leadership rammed through a bill (H.R. 1120) earlier today that would effectively put the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) out of business. 

The NLRB enforces rules established under the National Labor Relations Act (NLRA), which protects the rights of workers to form unions, bargain collectively and have a voice on the job. 

All Democrats, along with 10 Republicans—Reps. Rodney Davis (Ill.), Mike Fitzpatrick (Pa.), Chris Gibson (N.Y.), Michael Grimm (N.Y.), David Joyce (Ohio), Peter  King (N.Y.), David  McKinley (W.Va.), Pat Meehan (Pa.), Tom Reed (N.Y.) and Don Young (Alaska)—voted to stop this blatant attack on workers' rights. In the end, after much arm-twisting by Republican leadership, the measure squeaked by on a vote of 219-209. [...]

Fortunately, this bill will not be taken up by the Senate, but it is symbolic of the right-wing's anti-worker agenda

outreach my ass reach out inclusive

You can read the AFL-CIO letter opposing H.R. 1120 here.

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VIDEO: Why California labor unions are growing

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Please watch the whole video, especially the part at about 11:43.

The bad news: Union membership is on the decline. In fact, a record low 11.3 percent of all U.S. workers were union members, down from 11.8 percent in 2011, the government said.

The good news: California is seeing union gains. Why? Latino workers.

Latino immigrants are more willing to join unions in a tough economic environment, according to organizers.

The L.A. Times is reporting that California added more than 100,000 union member last year, according to data released by the Bureau of Labor Statistics, and 18.4% of the state’s workers are represented by a union.

Corporations maximize profits at the expense of the people who do all the work, so low-wage workers are interested in organizing in order to give themselves opportunity, job security, and to become a part of the now-shrinking middle class.

As David Johnson (from the video), organizing director of the California Nurses Assn., said, "There has to be a broader vision set forth so that people see unions and the labor movement as an answer to the corporate domination and the Wall Street greed that has devastated our country."

Labor's more optimistic proponents say that California could serve as a blueprint for unions across the country as they seek to stem membership declines. [...]

Workers fed up with years of stagnant wages may be motivated to join a union for financial reasons. Last year, union members made $943 a week, on average, while non-union members made $742, according to the BLS. [...]

Organizers say they were successful because they harnessed frustration with growing nationwide inequality to engage members during the recession. [...]

But demographic shifts can be only positive for unions in the next few years, said Harley Shaiken, a labor professor at UC Berkeley. Labor has built new alliances and is going into a new, proactive phase, he said.

"Reports of labor's death have been greatly exaggerated," he said.

unions gave us

Remember who created our weekends, overtime, safe work places, unemployment benefits, public roads, and employer-based health care.

And remember why Republicans want to do away with them: They are one of the few lucrative sources of Democratic fundraising.

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Unions "were put in place to fight for employees, not to protect the employer"

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Andy Marquis, reporter for RACE22.com, is our guest blogger of the day. He used to consider himself a Republican but not any more.  He changed his voter registration to Independent in 2011 and says that’s how it will remain. Enjoy (bolding mine):

What the Demonization and Demise of the Union Really Mean

Hostess, maker of Twinkies, is blaming union workers for going on strike for their demise Thursday.  The Reader’s Digest version being sold in the Beltway Media is that those evil union thugs didn’t accept a 32% cut in pay and that’s the reason the company went out of business.  Never mind the fact that Hostess has gone in to bankruptcy twice or the fact that those who have mismanaged the company have recently voted themselves a 300% salary increase, along with other bonuses.  Blame it all on the worker – it’s the American way.

Here's the thing with the unions.  They were put in place to fight for employees, not to protect the employer.

The problem with accepting a 32% pay cut is that there's no guarantee you'll get a pay increase if the company turns around.  That's why Wisconsin stripped collective bargaining rights.  Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker got everything he wanted in Wisconsin.  The teachers unions agreed to pay more in to their pensions and receive less from them (see: pay cut).  But even after that was agreed to, Walker flipped the bird at them and had their collective bargaining rights stripped (illegally) so they couldn't re-negotiate the contract down the road when things were better.

I’m a firm believer in unions.  Yes, there are things they could do differently.  Yes, I think teacher unions are an impediment to educational reform.  But the positives of unions outweigh the negatives.  They fight for the middle class and, as long as they have a seat at the table, we are all better off.

The Industrial Revolution was dark times, and times we are best not to return to.  It was when unions were formed by the employees and when they had a seat at the table that life improved for everyone.  The 40 hour work week, overtime pay, weekends, holidays, sick leave – the unions are to thank for all of these things.

Some people in American politics would rather see the unions not have a seat.  They think the government should work for the businesses.  In reality, the government already does.  If the unions do not have a seat at the table, many of those regulations would be allowed to be cancelled.  Regulations that are designed to protect the poor from being abused by their employers would go away.  And while many employers would act in good faith towards their employees without the unions and regulations, many others would not.

Take the unions out of the process and it’s once more a government working for big business.

See, it’s easy to blame the unions and to claim workers are overpaid.  After all, the unions are blamed for government budget deficits, the downfall of GM and now the downfall of Hostess.

The reason local and state governments are in deficits are because people are out of work and not paying taxes.  The teachers aren’t overpaid – in actual reality, teachers are underpaid.  GM went into bankruptcy because their reputation declined after nearly two decades of building an inferior product while companies like Honda and Toyota were putting quality products on the road.  And Hostess went out of business because of mismanagement.

Blaming the unions for these things happening is just like blaming the Community Reinvestment Act for the recession.  Now, sane and rational people know the Community Reinvestment Act was not responsible for the recession, but it’s made a great scapegoat in the conservative dumbassophere.  Idiots like Rush Limbaugh, who himself has a difficult relationship with reality, has no problem blaming the Community Reinvestment Act.  Why?  Because, in his Oxycontin influenced reality, poor people are always the cause of the problems and government works too hard to protect them.

Let me give an example of how government protects the wealthy at the expense of the poor.

Today, there was another oil rig explosion off the coast of Louisiana.  Fortunately, it does not look like we’re in for another Deepwater Horizon environmental holocaust.  But Deepwater Horizon exposed fundamental flaws.  Oil rigs are not properly inspected because the Minerals Management Agency does not have the proper funding to inspect them.  But when you and I, ordinary average citizens, have to have our car inspected or our home inspected, we have to pay a fee to the government out of pocket.  Corporations do not have to pay those fees for their inspections – instead, the taxpayers do.

Even though the system already favors business and the wealthy, because we are a Capitalist society after all, they want it in their favor more.  After all, it was David and Charles Koch who influenced the union stripping business that many Republican governors have invested their time in.  At the same time as they fought to have unions’ rights taken away, they were also fighting to have a larger say in the political process in the Supreme Court.  And they won both battles.

The demonization of the unions, which is fair criticism in some cases but unfair and biased criticism in others, is not about the unions at all.  It’s really about making sure the American people don’t have a seat at the table anymore.  The unions gave the American people a seat at the table, and now special interests are trying to take those away.

“Class Warfare” is not a minimum wage employee wanting to make a respectable wage to provide for his or her family.  “Class Warfare” is not a teacher wanting to make a wage that matches his or her qualifications.  “Class Warfare” is not employees refusing to take a massive pay cut while the corporation they work for pockets all the money they have before they close down.  “Class Warfare” is not thinking that those who can afford to pay more to contribute to the survival of this union should pay more.  “Class Warfare” is not thinking oil companies should have to pay for inspections of their rigs.  “Class Warfare” is not thinking that the banks should be regulated so they can’t gamble everyone’s’ money away.

The first part of “Class Warfare” is to blame the poor for the recession and the unions for deficitsThe second part is to take away the safety nets that help the poor and to eliminate the unions.  The final part is to deregulate the economy so corporations can once more thrive off the suffering of the working poor.

The United States of America survived for 100 years with the unions having a seat at the table, and life was better off for everyone in America because, when the poor and the middle class are doing better, everyone is doing better including the wealthy.  Yes, the United States needs a strong and prosperous upper-class to survive.  But it also needs a strong middle class to survive, to support the upper class and the entire economy.  And it’s the unions that built a stronger middle class, which in turn, created a stronger upper class.

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"Shareholder democracy" is a joke... (hello, Rupert Murdoch)."

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Michael Hiltzik has another informative column up at the L.A. Times that makes a lot of important points about workers vs. workers (Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker's divide and conquer strategy), how this rivalry is affecting the working- and middle-class, the weakening of labor unions, and "where to find a counterweight to 'pro-business' government policies" that create a wealth gap .

I'm going to concentrate on some specifics that are self-explanatory, but please read the whole piece.

The title is, aptly, "Corporate power increases as workers battle one another," with the subheading, "Last week's anti-labor election results only scratch the surface of a trend that destroys social cohesion and makes it harder for businesses — small and large — to prosper."

As I read Hiltzik and listen to Rachel Maddow's and Ed Schultz's daily concerns about the drastic reduction in the number of unions (resulting in the drastic reduction in funding of Democratic candidates and causes), and after reading Paddy's post Karl Rove’s Crossroads PAC takes on six more Democrats in crucial Senate races, I find myself reaching for my Pepto-Pinot cocktail earlier and earlier in the day.

Here are a few excerpts from Michael Hiltzik's column:

Corporations collect their revenues from customers; unions get theirs from their members. But corporations don't necessarily represent the interests of their customers (or haven't you had to deal with your cellphone company lately?); while unions consistently represent the interests of their membership.
  [...]

The difference is that "shareholder democracy" is a joke: An anti-management shareholder campaign winning a majority vote at the annual meeting is man-bites-dog news. The increasingly prevalent democratic style in American corporations, especially in Silicon Valley, is for one shareholder or a small group to control a majority of votes (e.g. Google, Zynga, Mark Zuckerberg). Indeed, a single shareholder can control a corporation with less than 50% share ownership (hello, Rupert Murdoch).

By contrast, union elections are often close-fought affairs, with fundamental disagreements over policy and strategy at stake. None of this means that union members' interests are always aligned with the public interest, only that leaders of a union with a million members will tend to pursue policies and support candidates serving the common interests of a million people and their families. A corporation with a million shareholders still might reflect only the interests of the two or three guys at the top. [...]

President Obama got horselaughs recently for suggesting that state and local government layoffs have been a big drag on the recovery. But 190,000 workers in those sectors have lost their jobs in the last three years. Ask your local shopkeepers, who depend on customers like them, if they think that's funny.

And to drive home another point:

As you can see, out of ten groups that make political donations, only three are unions. And with super PACs, a handful of billionaires can influence election outcomes. So not only is it getting harder for businesses to prosper, it's also getting harder for Democrats and democracy to prosper.

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VIDEO: Even too far for Republicans

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Visit msnbc.com for breaking news, world news, and news about the economy

Thank you to Rachel for getting this story out there. Imagine that, Republicans for union workers. Mind-boggling considering what's going on these days, isn't it?

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